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Breaking the law to do the right thing is a dilemma rife with dramatic possibilities, and that is the story of CALL JANE, a fictionalized story about real events. The Janes, as they were called, started as a collective that arranged safe abortions for women when the procedure was illegal in the United States except in extraordinary circumstances controlled by men. When I spoke via Zoom to the film’s director, Phyllis Nagy, on November 24, 2022 the first thing I asked was the way she depicted these women in a way that avoided hagiography.
We went on to talk about showing just how infantilized adult women were in this country 50 years ago; why sound design during the film’s first abortion scene was critical; and how the urgency of this film changed from when it was filmed in 2021, to when it was released in 2022 after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
We finished up with how Nagy hopes the film will spark discussions about equality; how to film the perfect tracking show from behind; why film was better than digital for this story; and the one unexpected advantage of filming during COVID.
CALL JANE is a reminder of what life was like before Roe v. Wade, and a warning about what it might be like now that it’s been repealed. Elizabeth Banks stars as Joy Griffin, an affluent homemaker in 1968 Chicago. When her pregnancy turns deadly, she is denied a therapeutic abortion by an all-male panel of doctors. It sends her on a journey of radical self-discovery that start when she contacts the Janes, an underground collective that provides safe abortions for women, and ends when she realizes her own potential.
The film co-stars Chris Messina, Wunmi Mosaku, Kate Mara, Cory Michael Smith, Grace Edwards, and Sigourney Weaver as the collective’s founder and the nightmare of every male chauvinist pig out there.
Nagy directed from a script by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi. Her previous work includes the screenplay for CAROL, and writing and directing MRS. HARRIS for television.